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For weeks, Gov. Dannel Malloy has been pushing the Connecticut General Assembly to pass new climate change and energy legislation. On Thursday, that initiative moved one step closer to fruition.

The first of the two bills Malloy is advocating is geared toward improving preventative and protective measures against climate change, while the second aims to promote and facilitate the development of renewable energy. On March 22, the Assembly’s Environment Committee voted 19–11 to approve the first bill, and on Thursday the Energy and Technology Committee voted 20–5 to approve the second. Now, both will head to the full senate for consideration.

“Climate change is real, it’s man-made, and it’s here,” Malloy said in a March 19 press release. “Fairness to future generations of Connecticut residents demands that we adjust our current practices to prevent climate disaster. My administration’s two proposals do just that.”

In 2008, Connecticut adopted a target of 80 percent reduction by 2050 under the state’s Global Warming Solution Act. Now, the bill on climate change resiliency would enact an interim target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent of 2001 levels by 2030. It would also update the state’s coastal boundary maps, adjusting them to account for a sea level rise of approximately two feet by 2050, a prediction made by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation.

In addition, the new bill would mandate that all legal references to sea level rise better reflect the more recent prediction and would require all future state-run and state-funded projects within the coastal boundary line to meet this projection. Finally, the bill would create a permanent executive body, the Connecticut Council on Climate Change, to address climate change.

The second piece of proposed legislation, the renewable energy bill, most notably would increase the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard — the mandated amount of renewable energy produced in the state — to 40 percent by 2030. In 2017, the standard was a little over 20 percent. The bill would also overhaul a host of the state’s energy-related programs, such as its solar incentive policy.

“Taken together, the two bills would represent a major step in Connecticut’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase accessibility of residential rooftop solar, and combat the effects of climate change,” Malloy said in the press release.

Yet several business leaders and environmentalists are concerned about some of the legislation’s particulars, especially since initial versions of the energy bill eliminated the state’s net metering program — a system that incentivizes solar energy by allowing residents and businesses that use solar power to sell excess energy to the public-utility grid.

These critics worry that eliminating the existing net metering policy, would lower the incentive for residents and small businesses to use solar energy.

“Net metering is a proven policy that has helped families’ and small business owners’ lower energy bills,” said Claire Coleman, climate and energy attorney at the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, in written public testimony. “Any changes to Connecticut’s net metering program must protect the right to consume and store self-generated clean energy.”

Along with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, which, according to Coleman’s testimony, “strongly opposes the proposal to eliminate net metering,” many environmental groups in Connecticut, including The Nature Conservancy, Environment Connecticut and Acadia Center, oppose the bill’s provision on net metering, according to public testimonies given on the behalf of those organizations.

In addition to these concerns, some residents have more general worries, namely that the energy bill is too narrowly focused on climate change and may ultimately hurt Connecticut’s economy.

“In our view, concerns about climate change [have] become the dominant driver of our state’s energy policy to a degree that warrants some pause and renewed perspective,” said Eric Brown, senior counsel at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, in written public testimony on the energy bill. “CBIA strongly opposes imposition of the energy consumption reduction mandate … If the state is genuine in its stated ambition to grow our economy, then it can’t be creating, as it did in 2008 with the Global Warming Solutions Act, arbitrary energy standards that limit our state’s ability to do so and drive energy prices ever higher in the state.”

Despite these reservations, both bills were approved with bipartisan support at the joint-committee level and will now move to the full senate.

The dates for the senate votes have not yet been set.

Max Graham |